Thursday 31 August 2023

August 2023

The bad weather we'd had in July continued into August. There was plenty of rain at the start of the month and it's been very mixed throughout. We Brits don't let that stop us though, we've enjoyed plenty of lovely days out this month.

Mick's first cricket match of the month was cancelled as there was a storm forecast. Not wanting to waste the day, we decided to have a drive out and settled on Haworth as our destination. We love this quaint Yorkshire village where the Bronte sisters lived between 1820 and 1861. There was some rain about but we managed to avoid the worst of the downpours and we ended up having a lovely day. The steep cobbled Main Street is lined with some lovely independent shops, my favourite being The Cabinet of Curiosities, the inside of which can be seen in the photo above. This was the old apothecary shop but it now sells hand made soaps, bath powders and curiosities. It's very rare that you find the shop as empty as it was on this day, it's usually jam packed but the rain seemed to have kept many people away from Haworth on this particular Saturday.

It was Mick's birthday on the 14th. He took a day off work, we'd decided beforehand that we'd have a trip out to Whitby. When we got up that morning it was pouring with rain but not to be deterred, we set off for the coast. Luckily, the rain stopped as we arrived and it managed to stay dry for the time we were there. The rain began again just as we were leaving. The North York Moors are stunning at this time of year with all the heather in flower but it was not shown off to its best with the rain and mist rolling in. You can just see RAF Fylingdales in the distance. This site monitors the world's airspace and provides a continuous ballistic missile early warning system to the UK and the US.

We were going to have a meal at a lovely pub we've visited before in Pickering but unfortunately, that wasn't to be. We hadn't booked as it's one of those places where you can just turn up but we discovered that they'd had to close the kitchens as they were short staffed due to illness. We ended up eating at a pub local to home. The birthday celebrations continued the following day when we had another lovely meal out, this time with family.

I've read three books this month.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

"Dickens's epic, exuberant novel is one of the greatest coming-of-age stories in literature. It chronicles David Copperfield's extraordinary journey through life, as he encounters villains, saviours, eccentrics and grotesques, including the wicked Mr Murdstone, stout-hearted Peggotty. formidable Betsey Trotwood, impecunious Micawber and odious Uriah Heep.

Dickens's great Bildungsroman - based, in part, on his own boyhood, and which he described as a 'favourite child' - is a work filled with life, both comic and tragic."

After finishing Les Miserables a couple of months ago, I hadn't intended embarking on another long novel again so soon but Charles Dickens is really calling to me after reading a few of his other books over the last year or so. Just shy of a thousand pages, David Copperfield isn't what you'd call a short story but I enjoyed it so much that the pages seemed to turn themselves.

The books I've read so far by Dickens contain some wonderful characters and David Copperfield is no exception. How I wanted the Murdstones to get their comeuppance, not to mention Uriah Heep. The less favourable characters were balanced out well with the likes of Peggotty and Agnes. This book introduces us to so many unforgettable characters, good and bad.

I loved Great Expectations when I read it last year but I think my enjoyment of David Copperfield exceeded even that. If you haven't read either of these books, what are you waiting for?

The Testimony of Alys Twist by Suzannah Dunn.

"Deeply divided England rejoices as Mary Tudor sweeps to power on a tide of populist goodwill. But the people should have been careful what they wished for: Mary's mission is to turn back time to an England of old. Within weeks, there is widespread rebellion in favour of her half-sister, princess Elizabeth, who is everything that Mary isn't.

Orphan Alys Twist has come a long way - further than she ever dared hope - to work as a laundress at the royal Wardrobe. There she meets Bel, daughter of the queen's tailor, and seems to have arrived at her own happy ending.

But in a world where appearance is everything, a laundress is in a unique position to see the truth of people's lives. Pressed into service as a spy in the errant princess's household, Alys herself must make a dangerous choice when the princess is arrested."

I've only begun to enjoy historical fiction in recent years and haven't read that many books in the genre. I enjoy the Tudor period so when I picked up this book, it called out to me. It started off well and though it did keep me wanting to turn the pages, my interest waned a little in the middle. 

The idea behind the story was a good one, I just felt that more could have been made of it. The ending was rushed and the writing a little weak I'm sorry to say.

Celebrations at Thrush Green by Miss Read.

"Although his statue has graced Thrush Green for many years, little is known about Nathaniel Patten until some of his papers are discovered and returned to his native village. As a young missionary, Nathaniel had founded a mission school in Africa, encouraged and guided by the then Rector of Thrush Green, Reverend Octavius Fennel. That was one hundred years ago.

The village school, home to so many children in its time, is also in its centenary year, so there is double cause for celebration. Preparations are beset with problems - Winnie Bailey's health, the suitability of the new headmaster, the mission appeal among them - but when the anticipated day arrives, there are more reasons for rejoicing than anyone could have imagined.

With this absorbing story of the Cotswold village and its much-loved residents, Miss Read's warm and humorous observation of the drama of country life will captivate her many readers once again."

Another book in the Thrush Green series where we catch up with the lives of those living in the village. These books are so easy to read and they hold my interest the whole way though. I love to find out what's happening in the lives of the much loved characters and can't wait now to read the next in the series.

We got Archie's pet insurance renewal through this month. Absolute madness! I thought last year's premium of £2258.14 + £15 admin fee was steep enough, this year the premium has increased to £2950.60 + £15 admin fee. Archie is on medication which costs us £74.89 per month, however, we have to pay an excess of £105 and 15% of any claim, so based on this we would expect to recoup £674.58, that's only just short of the amount the premium has increased this year. In the thirteen years we've been insuring Archie, we've paid out £11021.55 in insurance premiums and have claimed back £3888.19. If we'd put that money away instead of paying out for insurance there'd now be £7133.36 in the pot, and that's before this renewal is taken into account. It would definitely make me wonder whether taking out insurance is actually worth it if I were to get another dog. We're still undecided whether to renew or just take our chances. We can't shop around because once a dog is diagnosed with an illness, other insurers won't cover that existing condition, so they've got you over a barrel!

Mick had got a week booked off work in the middle of August but cancelled it as the weather was forecast to be rainy. As it turned out, it wasn't too bad so he still took the Monday off, which was his birthday, and also the Friday of that week when, as you'll have seen in my It's Scarecrow Time Again post, we visited the Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival. We had a full day out again on the Sunday, and he took the following week off work which was followed by the bank holiday. There are more posts to come about what we got up to.

We needed some new dishcloths knitting so I knitted a few for Jasmine and Daniel while I was at it now that they're in their new house. The basic pattern I usually use is the Grandmother's Favourite Dishcloth pattern, free on Ravelry. I also knit a couple from the Wondrous Dishcloth pattern. This is a double thickness cloth, textured on one side and smooth on the other. The pink and lilac cloths were knit from yarn given to me by my friend Maggie at BlackCountry Wench blog for my birthday last year. It was lovely yarn to work with and they're very generous balls, there's lots of yarn left so I'll be able to knit more cloths in each colour.

When I finished knitting my Winnie The Pooh Socks I was left with 46g of yarn which I thought would be plenty to knit a pair of shortie socks for Eleanor. Unfortunately, it wasn't. I think, perhaps, some yarn is wasted as you keep changing colour so whereas usually 46g would be plenty to knit a pair of shortie socks, it isn't when you're knitting stripes. I got as far as the toe and was left with just a few tiny scraps which wouldn't even complete one round. Eleanor had a good rummage in my stash and came up with a mini skein which was in last year's charity collaboration yarny advent calendar. It was dyed by The Fibre Fox and is called Fizzy Sherbet. I don't think it looks too out of place on the toe of these socks. Eleanor was very pleased with them anyway. The mini skein was only 10g and after knitting the toe, there was plenty left to add to my scrappy blanket.

It ended up being quite a busy August with Mick's holiday and our days out as well as a couple of celebrations. It was Jacob's birthday last weekend but he and Eleanor were having a city break in London so we had a family celebration and meal here after they'd all finished work last night. September should be quieter, even though it's my birthday month.

Friday 25 August 2023

It's Scarecrow Time Again

I've blogged about this scarecrow festival before. For a week in August, the village of Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales hosts a fantastic event which attracts around 15,000 visitors every year. It's such a great day out which doesn't break the bank, just £3 for car parking and £1 for a trail sheet if you want one. We don't go every year but we've been quite a number of times over the twenty nine years that it's now been running. The themes this year were classic kids TV and 100 years of the BBC, and as Mick's holiday from work coincided with the festival, we decided it was high time we visited again.

Kettlewell is a village in Upper Wharfedale, North Yorkshire. The census taken a couple of years ago lists the population as 321. The Scarecrow Trail takes you right through the village so you get to see all the sights and beautiful scenery too.

It's a lovely quiet village with some pretty cottages.

The River Wharfe flows through the village.

Back to the scarecrows. There's usually a theme to entertain the kids and another for the adults. I wouldn't have known Mr Tumble, a children's TV character, but all the younger visitors were delighted to see him.

One for the children and the adults too, Dr Who. I'm not sure which Doctor this was though. Peter Capaldi?

There was another Dr Who. No mistaking which Doctor this was, just look at the scarf.

I think you'd have to be of a certain age to know about the test card. This was broadcast as a test signal when the transmitter was active but no programme was being broadcast, very rare these days when you can find hundreds of programmes 24/7.

The Fab Four.

Ken Dodd, minus his Diddymen. He does have his tickling stick though. He was one of my dad's favourite comedians.

'Bring me sunshine'. More comedians, Morecambe and Wise. My dad loved these too.

Elsa and Olaf from Frozen. Another one to delight the little ones.

Compo, Clegg and Foggy from Last of the Summer Wine.

The original scarecrow. Worzel Gummidge and Aunt Sally.

Status Crow!

Jim and Barbara from The Royle Family. I think Jim's just about to play us a song.

As well as single scarecrows there were some scenes too, such as this David Attenborough one, "BBC Bringing Wildlife Into The Living Room", with the cameraman filming him and the polar bear. It carried important conservation messages just as David would want it to.

This scene was the BBC Through the Ages with Dixon of Dock Green, Peggy, Grant and Dot from Eastenders, Noddy and Big Ears, Steptoe and Son, amongst others. This won Best in Show.

Nessie. Another one which really captured the children's imagination.

Even the church joined in. I've never been inside Kettlewell church before, it's absolutely beautiful. It was decked out in fragrant flowers, the scent hit me as I walked through the door.

You can't really see the window in the first photo so I took another photo of it. Stunning. This is the East window and shows Christ looking over the battlefield of 1916. It's a memorial to the novelist Charles Cutcliffe Hyne.

And another of the windows. I just love stained glass.

This was just a very small selection of the scarecrows, there were nearly two hundred all told. It was a great day out and I can definitely recommend it if you're in the area. Perhaps we'll visit again next year.

Saturday 19 August 2023

Another Scrappy Blanket

Blankets and odds and ends of yarn, two of my favourite things, so after finishing my Happy Scrappy Blanket it was inevitable that I'd cast on another.

I have lots of scraps of yarn and mini skeins just waiting to be knit up but for this project I've decided to go with a more muted colour scheme. I've weeded all the stronger colours out and they'll be used up in a different project. The photo above shows just a few of the different yarns I've yet to add to the blanket.

I've made a start. The edges aren't looking very straight but that's because I haven't sewn in the ends yet, they're just tucked underneath. I try to make a point of sewing some ends in as I add another round leaving just the ends on the outside edge, can you imagine being left with every single end to sew in when it's finished, it doesn't bear thinking about. As you can see, I'm arranging the squares so that the decrease line radiates out from the centre. I've seen people arrange them in chevrons or have them all going the same way but I arranged them this same way previously and I like the way it looks.

I'm making an effort to get all my long term projects finished and I've made good headway so far, but it didn't take me long to cast on another scrappy blanket after I finished the last one. It's easy, relaxing knitting for when I'm sitting in front of the TV, or when I don't want to concentrate too much. I love all those pretty colours too.

Thursday 10 August 2023

Ilkley Real Food Market

We often pass through Ilkley on our way to the Yorkshire Dales but it's a while since we've stopped there for a wander and a look round. We didn't want to venture too far on Sunday so we decided it would be the perfect opportunity to rectify that.

What we didn't realise at the time was that Ilkley hosts a Real Food Market on the first Sunday of each month. The Grove is closed off to traffic and the stallholders set out their wares, and what a selection there is. I was surprised at how many stalls there were and each one seemed to offer something different to the rest.

It was a real bonus to find this event taking place when we arrived. There were lots of people looking round but because it was spread along the whole street, it didn't feel crowded at all, and there was a great atmosphere.

Most of the stalls were selling food and drink, some to consume right away, others to eat or drink later if you managed to get your purchases home before tucking into them.

There were some non-food stalls too, the photo above shows Yorkshire Blankets, a family run business saving redundant yarns from landfill and weaving them in Yorkshire mills into blankets. There was a plant stall, metal garden ornaments, beautiful handcrafted wood chopping boards, amongst many other things. There was something there for everyone.

There's a branch of Bettys Tea Rooms in Ilkley and it was doing brisk business on Sunday. There was a queue outside, as there usually is at any of their shops. This bakers and confectioners is renowned for its afternoon teas and Yorkshire Tea also comes under its brand.

Most of the shops in the town were open. It's good to see a small town like this thriving, especially in today's economic climate when so many businesses are struggling. It was also good to see an independent bookshop which looks to be doing well. The Grove Bookshop has been in the town for over forty years, it hosts book launches, talks and other events. I can confirm that it's well stocked, I came away with a classic to add to my small collection.

I shall definitely visit the Real Food Market again, it was a great day out and the town itself has lots to offer too.